Neocats eject priest

On Sunday, August 24, 2008, Fr Peter Maher, an accredited InterPlay leader, was to conduct a workshop entitled “Holistic Spirituality Can Be Fun” at St Vincent’s. Peter has conducted similar workshops at many venues, including overseas. He was specifically invited by the community, with which he has been associated for  about 25 years, to hold one at Redfern. Details of the workshop had been announced at Sunday Masses for several weeks, and all were invited to attend.

The workshop never happened – Clesio Mendes had his cronies eject Fr Peter Maher from St Vincent’s Church after lying in wait by the door for him to arrive after Mass. Mendes literally extended one hand to greet Peter, and metaphorically struck him with the other by telling him that he was not welcome in “his church”.

Mendes complained that he had not been advised about the workshop, but his extraordinary behaviour suggests otherwise. Why did he choose to express disapproval by humiliating Peter, and not by approaching the organisers well before the event? Is this how anyone, let alone a priest, is supposed to behave?

In their current poorly attended indoctrination programme (the team of catechists consistently outnumbers the curious) there is much talk about the miracle of love and unity in the Neocatechumenal community. This begs a number of questions. Is this so-called miracle only for the benefit of the inner circle, or “salt”? Does this justify inflicting hurt on the outsider, or “Judas”? Or refusing to participate in the community’s celebrations? Or accepting any pastoral responsibility for visiting the sick or offering spiritual support for the dying?

After Trevor’s funeral on Monday 25 August, Mendes again insisted to Peter Maher that he is not welcome in “his church”.

St Vincent’s is not a clerical bully’s plaything; it belongs to those – like Trevor – who find there a place of acceptance.

Mendes should take another look at Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 22:19-23):

I place the keys of the house of David on his shoulder. Should he open, no one can close; should he close, no one shall open.

Are his the keys of liberation? Keys to release people from their prisons, their closets, and the traps that they set for each other? Keys to be used to empower the least among us?

Keys still open and close doors. But they must be used with care. Peter’s keys are a symbol of unity, not to be used to shut the door in the face of any one group but rather to open the door to all and invite them in.

Peter Maher having a cup of tea with parishioners on the footpath
outside the old presbytery next to the church after being ejected by Neocats.
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